Monday was not the easiest day for Denzel Valentine.
”It hurt,” Valentine said. “I thought about it that night and yesterday.”
The turnover came with less than 30 seconds left and the Spartans ahead 69-67, Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser went flying out of bounds to save a loose ball, which he threw back toward the court and Valentine came down with it.
He quickly attempted to move the ball down the court, throwing a pass ahead toward Branden Dawson, but it went right into the hands of the Badgers’ Sam Dekker. Dekker passed to Bronson Koenig and Koenig drew a foul, hitting both free throws to tie the game. MSU went on to lose 80-69 in overtime.
All had a similar message for him.
“(They said) you can’t do that again and you gotta learn from your mistakes,” Valentine said. “Don’t stop playing a game, but you gotta learn from those mistakes.”
His teammates also have been there to pick him up and encourage him. Junior Matt Costello noted there were defensive lapses in giving up 3-pointers and three-point plays that hurt.
Senior Travis Trice added that Valentine’s 16 points – including a late 3-pointer to tie the game – were essential in having Michigan State in position to win in the first place.
“I told Zel, you can’t get caught up in that,” Trice said. “It’s basketball, you’re going to make mistakes. I told him people might say you lost the game for us, but if he doesn’t play the way he does, we aren’t even in the game.
”You can’t put all that blame on him. It’s a team game, a team effort.”
A meeting with Trice, Branden Dawson and coach Tom Izzo was part of the process in moving along for Valentine.
”We just kinda got everything and put everything out on the table and we are moving forward now,” Valentine said. “You can’t do anything about it. … It’s not like we are in the NIT or something. We are still in the tournament. We are playing some of our best basketball right now. We just gotta know at the end of the game. We gotta focus and not make those same mistakes.”
And after Tuesday’s practice, Trice said he saw Valentine doing a great job of bouncing back and getting ready to face Georgia on Friday in the NCAA Tournament.
”I think as of yesterday he was over it,” Trice said. “I think he’s moving on because that’s the beauty of having a game right around the corner and being in the NCAA Tournament.
”We’ve got a game Friday and we gotta focus in.”